With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker landing in theaters imminently, fans are taking an opportunity to look back at the evolution of a galaxy far, far away. In the 40-plus years since Star Wars: A New Hope made its debut, the saga has been further expanded on through plenty of mediums — including an impressive array of novels and books.
The Star Wars franchise has gone through several interesting evolutions with regards to books, as the saga found a second life in the 1990s through an array of tie-in books. Those books, which were dubbed the "Expanded Universe," carried on or influenced the saga for years, up until Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012. A matter of years later, it was announced that new continuity would be set in place for official tie-in material, with everything published in the EU being dubbed "Legends" canon.
Given the sheer quantity of books that bear the Star Wars name — and the confusing canons and timelines of it all — the task of figuring out which book to read first might seem a little daunting. Luckily, we've got you covered, with seven books (and two sets of trilogies) that cover everything from decades before the prequel trilogy to just before The Rise of Skywalker.
While this list might not include everyone's favorite or most essential reads, it's the titles that we think best encapsulate what the Star Wars saga has to offer for books. So, what made our list? Read on to find out.
Published in: 2012
Written by: James Luceno
Just before the tragedy of Darth Plagueis, the Wise found a second life as an Internet meme, this 2012 novel dove into the Sith lord's bizarre origins. The novel chronicles Plagueis' mentorship of Sheev Palpatine, as well as the various other ways he impacted the Sith world in his later life.
While the novel might still remain in the Legends canon (it was released just years before Lucasfilm officially established its new canon in 2014), it's a good distillation of what the pre-prequel era Star Wars has to offer, without having to completely establish a new branch of storytelling. Plus, given just how much of the Skywalker Saga seems to be revolved around Palpatine, this is a good pick for anyone looking to further explore his origins.
Published in: 2019
Written by: E.K. Johnston
Queen's Shadow dives into time only barely hinted at in the prequel trilogy — Padme Amidala's journey between the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. The novel opens on Padme after stepping down as Queen of Naboo, deciding instead to play a role in the Galactic Senate. Over the course of the narrative, Padme and her loyal handmaiden Sabe begin to carry out their decoy switcheroo, as they both navigate politics and being a young woman in an ever-evolving galaxy.
Not only does the novel provide quite a lot of collective tissue and Easter eggs, but it dives head-first into the nuance of how Padme operated her life. It's also set to get a sequel, Queen's Peril, in May of next year, so there is no better time than ever to catch up.
Published in: 1995-1997
Edited by: Kevin J. Anderson
The Legends canon allows the Star Wars canon to go into many surprising directions, especially with regards to some of the supporting characters in the original trilogy. The Tales From... series, which consisted of 1995's Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, 1995's Tales from Jabba's Palace, and 1997's Tales of the Bounty Hunters, are the best and most bizarre way to see what that entailed. As the titles suggest, each anthology includes a series of short stories related to a key component of the original trilogy, and either provides backstory or a new update on iconic characters.
Have you wanted to see IG-88 process the nature of his sentience? What about the woes of Bib Fortuna or Jabba the Hutt's chef? If the answer is yes (which it should be), then these anthologies will have something for you to love. Plus, who can pass up a story about Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes called "We Don't Do Weddings"?
Published in: 2015
Written by: Claudia Gray
Set during the events of the original trilogy (and change), Lost Stars chronicles the journey of Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, two citizens of the planet Jelucan who enroll in the Imperial Academy. After experiencing the horrors of the Empire firsthand, Thane and Ciena's ideology — and their blossoming love story — is put to the test.
Are the Imperials saviors? Are the Rebels terrorists? How far will someone go to stick to their beliefs, even if it means they lose their true love? Lost Stars answers those questions and then some, and becomes one of the most significant recent Star Wars novels in the process.
Published in: 2017
Edited by: Elizabeth Schaefer
One of the most ambitious — and incredibly satisfying — Star Wars books that has been released in recent years is From a Certain Point of View. The anthology, which was in honor of A New Hope's 40th anniversary, collects 40 short stories, each of which centers around a background character somewhere in the film.
Any anthology that unites Star Wars fan-favorite writers like Ashley Eckstein and Charles Soule, comic professionals like Kelly Sue DeConnick and Keiron Gillen, and nerdy icons like Griffin McElroy and Wil Wheaton in one single book is worth celebrating on its own. But From a Certain Point of View allows you to look at an array of endearing and unexpected ways.
Published in: 1991-1993
Written by: Timothy Zahn
The Legends canon was arguably at its peak in the 1990s, and many regard the Heir to the Empire trilogy to be one of the best things it produced. Timothy Zahn's trilogy spanned across 1991's Heir of the Empire, 1992's Dark Force Rising, and 1993's The Last Command, and encompassed the birth of the New Republic, Han and Leia's family life, and Luke Skywalker beginning to train Jedi Knights.
In the process, the trilogy introduced beloved characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade, the former of whom has been officially brought into the main continuity thanks to Star Wars Rebels. If you want a fairly self-contained look at what the Legends universe has to offer, while also meeting some pretty heavy hitters in the process, this trilogy might be your best bet.
Published in: 1994
Written by: Dave Wolverton
Originally published in 1994, The Courtship of Princess Leia remains one of the best-selling — and most controversial — novels in the Legends canon. The story sees Leia agreeing to marry Isolder, the prince of a potential ally nation, in order to get the resources to help the fledgling New Republic. Through a bizarre array of events, Leia, Han, Luke, Isolder, and a female warrior named Teneniel are forced into an alliance on the planet Dathomir (a planet that those who have recently played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will recognize). From there, things evolve into a bizarre and entertaining story, which reads like modern-day fan fiction in all of the right ways.
As with nearly any novel that's 25 years old, there are definitely some elements of The Courtship of Princess Leia that don't hold up as well today, largely with regards to Leia's initial agency and some really out of character moments from Han. But there's a lot that still makes the novel worth reading — not only for its third act, but for both its initial significance in the Legends canon, and the way it illustrates just how far the portrayal of female agency in Star Wars novels has come.
Published in: 2016
Written by: Claudia Gray
Set in the years before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Bloodline provides another Leia-centric story, albeit one with a much more headstrong and fully-realized take on her. The 2016 novel follows Leia's complicated work in the galactic government, as she is forced to work alongside Ransolm Casterfo, a young Senator who idealizes the legacy of the Galactic Empire.
If you're looking for context for the events of The Force Awakens (namely with supporting characters like Korr Sella), Bloodline is the book for you. Not only does it dive head-first into Leia's life as a politician, but on the impact the Dark Side has had on her family's legacy.
Published in: 2019
Written by: Rebecca Roanhorse
While it's only a little over a month old, Resistance Reborn has already garnered quite a lot of positive buzz — and it's easy to see why. The novel picks up right where the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi wrapped up and follows the dwindling number of Resistance fighters trying to keep the spark alive.
For those who wanted to see more of Rey, Finn, and Poe interacting as a triumvirate — as well as the connective tissue between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker — Resistance Reborn is a blessing. Without getting into spoilers, the novel also unites quite a lot of tie-in material that the Star Wars has produced in recent years.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released in theaters on December 20th.
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